Monday, July 17, 2017

Anything Goes

Terry Shames here: This week’s question is whether we read sub-genres other than our favorite crime novels. The question would be easier for me to answer if it was, “What don’t you read?”

Here’s what I don’t read a lot of:  amateur detective stories—unless, and that’s a big unless, the author makes a really good case for the amateur to step in. I just don’t enjoy the “Oooo, the local baker got killed. Please tell me you aren’t going to investigate.” (Words spoken by a friend, a boyfriend, or a stern cop). I know some people LOVE these. Read them like candy, enjoy suspending their disbelief and spending a couple of hours with a ditzy amateur. And here’s the thing: I’ve read a couple of these that I thought were terrific. So I can’t really even say I don’t read them. I just don’t gravitate toward them.

What it boils down to is that I’ll try pretty much anything (where reading is concerned anyway. I don’t do high places, but I digress). Looking at my TBR pile, I have everything from the most hard-boiled (Don Winslow or Jo Nesbo anyone?) to humorous (Dying for a Dude, Cindy Sample). I have police procedurals (The Gods of Guilt, Michael Connelly), a lovely light mystery (Love & Death in Burgundy, Susan Shea), a historical mystery that I haven’t gotten around to (Mercury’s Rising, Ann Parker), foreign affairs (A Carrion Death, Michael Stanley), ancient times (Hand of Fire, Judith Starkston), zany works of mayhem (Skink: No Surrender, Carl Hiaasen), private eye, stories of intrigue, psychological suspense novels….And so much more.

You get the picture. I am an eclectic reader. That’s true not only in mystery, but in pretty much everything. On my TBR pile I also have a book about the history of Wonder Woman (bought long before the movie came out), books about medical matters, poetry, maps, history, science, biography, mainstream fiction, memoir, travel.


That doesn’t mean that when I start reading a book I’ll finish it. I give a book a few typos, a little formatting glitch, or a little bad editing before I put it down, but with so many books out there, it better be a damn good story for me to keep reading if it has those technical problems. I recently starting reading a book that was pretty good. But the third time the author wrote (and the editor allowed it) “there was an xxxx laying by the side of the road (or wherever),” I couldn’t stand it anymore. The story wasn’t good enough for me not to be thrown out of it by bad grammar. The other things that stop me reading are a suddenly ridiculous plot twist (when I say, “Aww, come on…” you’re toast), unintentionally bad dialogue, unbelievable characters, and careless prose. Oddly, descriptions don’t have to be great for me to keep going if the plot, character, and dialogue are working. Get all of it right, and you have a reader for life! I’m talking about Timothy Hallinan, Lisa Brackmann, Robert Crais, Deborah Crombie, Charles Todd, Catriona McPherson, James Ziskin, for a few examples. These are writers that I know I can trust to tell me a good story and to write it well. Genre-hopping? You bet.

2 comments:

Rick Robinson said...

I'll read most mystery/crime sub-genres, except medical and legal. I've tried them; different authors, different time periods, different general settings (England, U.S., France), and none of them worked for me. The exception I make is Earle Stanley Gardner's Perry Mason books, which I love.

Otherwise, cozy - though not simpering - mysteries (I'm talking Christe, Nero Wolfe and the like), hard-boiled, historical, even crossovers with SF. I also read a lot of science fiction, fantasy and non-fiction.

Susan C Shea said...

Thanks for the compliment, Terry! I know your bookshelves (or piles) well enough to know you really do read widely. I have found that the giveaway books at conventions have opened doors for me to read authors I might not have noticed, and that's great.